My first thought was that this was released to cash in on the Hobbit movie. But as I read the potted biography in the first few chapters I decided that this was unfair - it's insightful and well written.
But then - oh dear - the author decides to do a clunky précis of The Hobbit. Really, why bother? If you have read the book itself or even just seen the movie, you know all this stuff. You have already read it in Tolkien's far more elegant prose. You have seen Rivendell in Peter Jackson's stunning vision. And if you have just been to see the Hobbit movie, you probably don't want a spoiler for parts 2 and 3.
Oh dear oh dear! Because the next chapter is a clunky précis of The Lord of the Rings. Skipping over this we reach (aargh!) a clunky précis of The Silmarillion.
Nil Desperandum! About halfway through this chapter the author stops telling us stuff we can read in the books and starts talking about how the posthumous stories came to be published. Private Eye greeted publication of `The Sellamillion!' with some cynicism, and certainly Allen & Unwin and Christopher Tolkien have done well out of editing his father's papers. But if you want to cash in, spending 30 years editing is not the quickest or easiest way to do it. And if the author of this book was trying to cash in, he wouldn't have filled a quarter of the book with index and bibliography.
Jack Whittaker is a database administrator specialising in SQL Server technologies and author of the DBAtasks Blog